Back in November of 2011 I reported that a federal judge had blocked the FDA’s proposal to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as drugs and drug delivery devices (this blog, Nov. 15, 2011). The judge’s argument was that if e-cigarettes are to be regulated at all, they should be regulated in the same way as cigarettes, not as drugs or drug delivery devices. The judge’s ruling effectively opened the way for the importation and sale of e-cigarettes in the U.S.

Two years later, the FDA is still not requiring that e-cigarettes be regulated as cigarettes. But there’s nothing from stopping states or even cities from doing so.

Last week Los Angeles did just that. The city council of Los Angeles voted unanimously to regulate e-cigarettes as cigarettes, with all the same restrictions on sale and use. The L.A. city council felt it was better to err on the side of caution, given that the health effects (if any) of e-cigarettes are not yet known and that e-cigarette use is on the rise among high school students.

E-cigarettes were developed primarily as a product that could help smokers quit smoking cigarettes, which we now know increases cancer risk. Their primary active ingredient is nicotine, which is supposed to satisfy the craving that cigarette smokers experience. However, the e-cigarette companies soon realized that young non-smokers might also be attracted to e-cigarettes, and they were right. Some people worry that e-cigarette use by teens who never smoked could lead to a whole new generation of people addicted to nicotine, even if they are unlikely to get lung cancer. And that’s probably not a good thing if it could be avoided.

Presumably, L.A.’s restrictions would not deter current smokers who wish to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking. They are already accustomed to the rules for cigarette use, such as minimum age for purchase and where cigarettes can be smoked).

Score one for the regulators - this time, at least. (See this blog Nov. 16, 2013).

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